For Georgia, the 2017 college football season has gone pretty much according to plan to this point. The Bulldogs, the popular preseason favorite to win the SEC East, are 5-0 entering Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt. They are ranked in the top six of both polls following an impressive 41-0 drubbing of Tennessee in Knoxville. They are technically a game behind Florida for first place in the East, but the Gators have a conference game in hand.
And while the defense ranks among the nation’s best in every major category and Georgia is running the ball effectively (21st in the FBS), it’s the quarterback position that has been the biggest surprise thus far. Many expected sophomore Jacob Eason to be the one to lead the Bulldogs to their undefeated record a month into the season and instead it’s been true freshman Jake Fromm at the helm.
Pressed into duty after Eason injured his knee in the opener against Appalachian State, Fromm is a perfect 4-0, including a big road win in South Bend over Notre Dame in his first-ever collegiate start. His statistics may not jump off of the stat sheet (13th in the SEC in passing at 146.8 ypg), but he has done what he’s needed to do while letting his running game and defense do the heavy lifting.
The Bulldogs have been a run-heavy team and for good reason, as Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and another freshman, D’Andre Swift, have combined for 968 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns through five games. As a team, Georgia is averaging 237.4 yards per game on the ground and the top three backs are gaining a collective 6.3 yards per carry.
With production like that on the ground, there’s no reason to ask Fromm to throw the ball a lot, which is why he has attempted a total of 84 passes. However, he has completed 50 of them (59.5 percent) for 734 yards, eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. His QB rating of 159.6 has him trailing only Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham in the SEC.
Fromm also has shown some mobility on read plays and in other instances. He only has 24 rushing yards on 18 attempts but he does have two rushing touchdowns as well.
Eason (right) returned to action after missing the past three games, entering last week’s game against Tennessee halfway through the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were already ahead 38-0 so it’s not like the outcome was in doubt. Because of the situation, Eason attempted just one pass, an incompletion on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, but does his return signal there’s a quarterback controversy brewing in Athens?
If I were head coach Kirby Smart, I would stick with Fromm. Eason may be the veteran in terms of experience and the more highly touted recruit, but the true freshman has done everything that’s been asked of him and needs to get some of the credit for Georgia’s 5-0 start. There’s also some question if Eason is truly 100 percent recovered from the sprained ligament in his left knee.
The reality is that the Bulldogs are only going to go as far as their running game and defense take them, a formula that has a pretty good track record in the SEC (just ask Alabama). So while the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may seem tired and antiquated, I think it applies here. Fromm has done nothing to show he’s not worthy of remaining Georgia’s starting quarterback. Eason can continue to get healthy and get his timing back in practice and be ready when called upon.
Quarterback is not exactly the deepest position in the SEC this year. It’s a good problem for Smart that he has two quality starters at his disposal. But for now, the No. 1 option is Fromm.